Friday, September 25, 2015

A Dark Hour Upon Us. . . .

I am 51 years old. It feels strange to have lived half a century and have seen things change in various ways both socially and technologically. People tend to over estimate the changes in their own lifetime, a proclivity that is, I suppose, a predictable outcome of their egos. My intellect reminds me of how little has really changed, but my emotions are amazed by the changes that have actually taken place. I grew up in the US when the last vestiges of Jim Crow were finally being dismantled. Racism against African Americans was still public, rife, and systemic, but people were fighting against it and winning. Terrible sacrifices were made, good people like Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers were taken from us, young people like the three Mississippi civil rights workers were murdered in cold blood. But these sacrifices were only the tip of the iceberg of pain, suffering, and humiliation that average African Americans had been suffering for a couple of centuries in North America.

But things were changing when I was young and they have continued to change. Each new generation in North America carries a little less racist baggage. With the exception of the racism against Indigenous people (which is still shockingly open and public), blatant racism has been withering and dying in North America. When I see my youngest daughter and her friends, I realize that racism just doesn’t register with them the way it did with my generation. That much is encouraging.

But the emotional baggage, the underlying impulse of racism, is still alive and well, as the current events of the election demonstrate, and that fact is depressing beyond measure. The fact that moral degenerates like Stephen Harper and Jason Kenny can so easily stoke fear and latent hatred, can so easily throw aside the principles of religious freedom diversity, and so easily generate cooperation in their immoral task by average people makes me feel almost as though we haven’t come very far at all in my lifetime.

Apparently, despite all the progress I thought (or at least hoped) we had made, all a politician has to do to regenerate heated racism in Canada is brandish thoughts of a conspiracy by “radical Islamics” who are led by crazed “Jihadists” and represented in our country by one average woman who doesn’t want the state to tell her how to dress. Bang! Instant irrationality and historical regression. No matter that there are not “Jihadists” behind every corner. No matter that more Canadians died from car accidents this week than from “terrorism” in the last ten years. No matter that despite her personal dress preferences Zunera Ishaq has no interest in turning Canada into an Islamic state. No matter that a country like Germany (a country with considerably greater security concerns than our own) can receive tens of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees without a single act of “Jihadist Terror.” Never mind that white supremacists are a much greater threat to our safety and security than Muslims. Where bigotry is concerned, the facts don’t matter. Racism relies on fear, on our basest emotions, and on underlying feelings of hatred.

We are experiencing a terrible moment in our history. It is a moment that will later be looked upon much like our treatment of Japanese Canadians in WWII. We are embarrassing ourselves to our children and grandchildren. They are going to look back and wonder how we let ourselves be so foolish despite all our historical experience with racism. But it is always the same story. We are weak and all too often we let ourselves be led by our weakest impulses.


zoombats said...

Hi Kirby. I do agree with you on many points. It is hard to come to terms with what is happening to society and how it has or hasn't evolved. I think it all comes down to a meaner, cruel and greedy attitude to everyone and everything. A rather basic observance on my part yes, but usually the most simplistic reasons are the best ones to formulate. The politicians get it and have always figured us out. We are weak and unable to notice what is happening to us. Probably too preoccupied with survival or staying afloat. I just read of the IDF shooting a woman at a check point on Tuesday mostly due to a communication issue, or so described by the report. The description of the incident left me cold as the victim was shot in her legs and then fired upon by more than one of the border people. I'm not making a statement here about anyone in particular. It doesn't much matter whether it's an incident like this, a shooting of a black man in a wheel chair or any other horrific event. Our propensity for cruel and malicious behaviour is a very real thing and shows how imbalanced we as a society have become.

Owen Gray said...

"The worst are full of passionate intensity," Kirby.

Lorne said...

I find myself in agreement with your gloomy assessment of the human condition, Kirby. While we have certainly experienced social evolution in the past century, it always seem to take very little to rip away the veneer of civilization we encase ourselves in. As you well know, that is why demagogues are so dangerous.

We are part of the animal kingdom, something we are reminded of on a daily basis. However, like other animals we do have the capacity or potential to be good and philanthropic. Of that I have no doubt. But that capacity has to be carefully nurtured in order to express itself and grow. Today, we have no one in the political arena willing to do the hard lifting required of leadership that would bring out the best in us. And we, of course, are the enablers of that weak leadership that exploits and manipulatse our passions and our prejudices.

In my view, we all are to blame for our abject failures.

zoombats said...

After my morning blog reading I went off to my daily chores and I reflected on this post today for the duration of my time afield. I had this thought burning in my head all day about what has happened to us and I realized that it is a cyclical thing expressed in the words by Bob Dylan from a song "With God on our side" from his 1963 album "The Times they are a changing"

"With God On Our Side"

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And the land that I live in
Has God on its side.

I haven't included all the verses but it is worth a listen. So dust off your turntable and give it a listen

Askingtherightquestions said...

The reason for hope Kirby, may be the "il Papa" effect and the encouragement he is giving to confront the neoliberal idiocy of politicians like Harper. Fear of "jihad and the niquab" is just the sort of crap that Harper and his new hired hate machine would try and propagate. I was shocked to see Tasha Kerridhin's take on the french language debate in iPolitics :

"But by winning the debate, Duceppe may help Harper win the election. Duceppe hammered home the niqab issue: when Elizabeth May called it a false debate, he countered: “Not for women and not for the National Assembly.” Duceppe described in full detail the broad social consensus that exists in Quebec on the requirement to deal with government “with an uncovered face”, a proposal the provincial Liberals wish to enshrine in law. But if a voter really wants action on that front, he can’t get it by voting for Duceppe, who will never be prime minister. Harper is the only leader pledging to bring in a law on the topic, and who could be in a position to do so."

In reference to your excellent post yesterday, this would be unconstitutional, another Harper piece of legislation destined for the shredder. Mulcair, to his credit, knows how this has played in Quebec but still stood up for the constitutional right to wear the face covering (pending appropriate identity confirmation in private).